With every passing day I’m becoming more and more of a Neige fanboy. This French multi-instrumentalist pours his heart and soul into his art and virtually every album he has featured on is of the highest quality, whether it’s PESTE NOIRE’s “La Sanie Des Siecles...”, MORTIFERA’s “Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera” or AMESOEURS’ “Ruines Humaines”. The latter being one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard. ALCEST is his main band of sorts and this, the full length debut, is another sublimely brilliant release that transcends mere ‘music’ and crosses over into pure art.
ALCEST may have started out as a more straightforward Black Metal project but over time has veered more towards the expansive, highly poignant post-Black Metal style that marked the AMESOEURS EP. Call it beautifully tragic or tragically beautiful, either way this is some of the most moving, personal music I’ve come across in a very long time. Despair-ridden yet hopeful, these six songs just suck you in from the first note, with strained guitar riffs, ethereal vocals (both male and female), deft acoustic touches and the sounds of birds and children playing accompanying you through this majestic sonic journey. Neige stated that this album is supposed to transport the listener to a world free of worry and ugliness, to a place where peace and beauty reigns (hence the album title, which translates to “memories from another world”). This may sound cheesy to some but listen to the album and you’ll understand what the man is on about. This is far removed from Metal of any kind, in fact it is almost poppy in places, but it’s just so affecting that I don’t care about tags.
Going into individual tracks is a moot point since every single note on this album reeks of perfection, but a few deserve special mention. The title tracks is a very tender yet mournful acoustically-driven piece very much in the same way as the “Faiblesse Des Sens” tracks off the AMESOEURS EP, and it is an emotionally grating listen (in a good way of course). When those anguished leads come in near the end coupled with the angelic vocals of Audrey Silvain (also of AMESOEURS, guest vocals on the latest PESTE NOIRE) the results are otherworldly. Her vocals also help elevate the track “Sur L’autre Rive Je T’attendrai” to the realms of perfection, even though it sounds a bit ENYA-ish at times. “Ciel Errant” is another cracker, especially the double-bass driven part near the end. I’m spouting all manner hyperbole I know, but this is the soundtrack to where I am in my life right now.
This album shows beyond any reasonable doubt that Neige and co. are operating on a very high plane of creativity, and as this music resonates so deeply with me I have no qualms about giving “Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde” the highest possible rating. Utterly perfect in every way, this is an album you have to buy two copies of – one to listen to until it’s scratched to hell and the other to put on display.
Je ne peux pas vous remercier assez, Neige.
PS – NIGHTWISH took the top spot because I only received this album earlier this year, but I now declare “Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde” my top pick of 2007 as well as a fresh inductee in my top 20 of all time.
(Online March 12, 2008)